How I Picked Up Kayaking

How I Picked Up Kayaking

kayak on shore TH 2015By Travis Huber, Augustana University, Class of ’18. 

My dad and I had been talking about it on and off forever: “When were we getting kayaks?”

We kept putting it off and instead stuck with fishing from shore. That was, of course, until one day my dad showed up and honked the horn. I walked outside and saw a single kayak on the pick-up. He said, “let’s go try it.”

It was a typical South Dakota day – there was a crazy amount of wind.  Our small, local lake was only two miles away and my dad said he had already tried out it a bit. I was all excited and I looked out at the water and saw the rolling white caps. Nothing extreme, but I was definitely thinking it’d be a little nicer to try on flat water for the first time.

Trav on the kayak TH 2015That certainly wasn’t going to stop me though; I had a kayak sitting next to me and an ambition to get in and paddle around. I threw on a life jacket and hopped in the wobbly thing and paddled away. Within minutes I had complete balance and was cutting up and down waves and using the choppiness to my advantage. It turned out to be a perfect first test of balance. I would sit still in the kayak and feel how the waves affected the kayak facing one way, then face a different direction and do the same. I quickly adjusted to it and learned the best way to maneuver around.

I knew kayaking was something I was going to want to do often, so I turned back to dad and said “well now we need two more of these.”

A half hour later my dad and I went back to Menards and picked up two more Viper, 10’4” kayaks, one for my brother and one for me. They were brand new and wrapped up in a big chunk of plastic wrap.

bass off a kayak TH 2015Within a few days of owning them, we bought rod mounting kits to turn our kayaks into personal fishing boats. We had the kayaks in the yard and the power tools to cut and drill holes to fit the rod kits. After about an hour, we had every kayak prepped and mounted with two rod holders in the back, ready to go fishing. Later on, we also added an additional rotating rod holder by the cup holder for quicker convenience, and I could now use one rod holder to hold the net I would need to bring in the fish. We had developed our own ultimate personal fishing tools.

Ever since owning one, kayaking has been my favorite hobby. Of course by that I mean kayaking and fishing at the same time, but really it has been my go-to for everything when I wanted something to do. Kayaking is something I can enjoy for hours on end, and pretty much the only reason I’ll get out of it is because I was getting sore from sitting for so long, or it’s been a good day and I’ve got a few fish on the stringer that are about to become a tasty meal.

Travis is blogging for The Outdoor Campus as part of a 20-hour internship in public relations. 


A Good Reason to Get Lost

black hills scenery on top of rock - travis hIt’s the last weekend before college starts up again. It’s my birthday. My plan to visit Canada didn’t work out. Where do I go for my last adventure before the semester? The Black Hills. The Black Hills of South Dakota is one of the most beautiful places that the United States has, and always has adventure to offer.

My brother Anthony, his friend Adrian and I headed out to the Black Hills with very little idea of where we were actually going to go while we were out there. All we knew was we wanted to hike something, catch some trout and sleep in a tent.

The start of our lost adventures begins with me not being able to find proper directions on my smartphone to the campground area we wanted. The service can be a pain out in the winding, deep valleys of the Spearfish Canyon area, but we knew there had to be a campground around. After checking out two different campgrounds in the middle of nowhere and finding everything full, we drove in complete darkness to somewhere we didn’t even know existed. I don’t remember the name of the place, but it had a deep valley, its own little lake, a big dock, and sign that said “Kayak Ln.,” so it felt like home to me. We set up our tents in the pitch black darkness and explored the campground the next morning.

upload 9.2015 190Although the campground was amazing, our goal of the trip led us to the Devil’s Bathtub. We packed up camp and loaded our backpacks with pudding packs, oat bars, and water bottles and headed out to adventure up the trails. My brother Anthony had also brought his fancy pull-apart fishing pole for when we found somewhere that looked promising to fish. The water up there is naturally cold, but that didn’t stop us from taking the brisk, chilly dip in the deep pools of water you find along the streams. Along with that, we passed around the fishing pole and all caught a little trout or two. We tossed them back in and kept walking. The Bathtub was great and we spent several hours there, but the next day’s adventure was where being lost became amazing.

We were in search of Hippie Hole, the well-known cliff jumping spot in the middle of an enormous valley. With the help of some random kid on a dirt bike, he led us and our Monte Carlo down a trail meant for nothing other than off road vehicles. Along this trail, we drove up hill after hill where we were able to see for miles and miles. We loved the view, but before we ran out of daylight we made our way to Hippie Hole first.

upload 9.2015 195After hiking some pretty rough terrain, jumping up and down boulders and trees, we finally got there. We each took the polar plunge twice into the water, and spent a good amount of time just relaxing in the cove behind the waterfall you jump over. Running out of daylight, we headed back to that peak we passed to see the land and watch the sunset.

This trail, in the middle of we-don’t-know-where, led to probably the most amazing view I have personally seen. We climbed up this giant rock, and just sat there. That’s all I needed to do to enjoy the moment, just sit there and look around. Stare at world.  We spent every last moment of daylight we could, looking around, just enjoying nature in all its natural beauty.

Paddlefish: Mission Accomplished

Paddlefish: Mission Accomplished

pfish 2015 travis hBy Travis Huber, Augustana University, Class of ’18. 

One of my absolute favorite seasons that South Dakota has to offer is catching Paddlefish. Snagging paddlefish is a very special event for me, because I only draw a snagging tag about once every three years. Paddlefish are one of the biggest and most extraordinary fish that you can find in South Dakota, and they taste amazing of course.

My dad and I headed out to Gavins Point Dam in Yankton in the evening of the first Saturday of the season. The place was filled with people and I had about two hours of fishing time left in the day, so I found myself a spot and started casting away. My dad did not have a tag, so he opted for watching everyone fish and scoped out which places seemed to be the best if a spot opened up. In my two hours of fishing, I caught one paddlefish that measured approximately twenty-seven inches from the front of the eye to the fork of the tail; that’s how paddlefish are measured. I also lost a few lines to some snag spots. I couldn’t wait to keep fishing the next day.

The next morning came and I was sitting on shore at 6:45 a.m., fifteen minutes before people are allowed to start casting. The shore was beginning to fill up, but I had my perfect spot set and was just waiting for the clock to tick down. At 7 a.m. sharp, every person on shore picked up their poles and cast out, including me.

I cast out as far as I could, yanked once, yanked twice and had a fish on. I looked to my left, and see that the next two people down from me ALSO had fish on. I was working on reeling in my fish when my neighbor’s line happened to cross into mine because his fish decided it didn’t want to come in easily. He got his line in but it was tangled in mine. His catch turned about to be a bighead carp, and my fish was still out there swimming around. We spent a couple minutes untying the lines and after that I cranked in my fish- a paddlefish.

I measured it, and it came to be almost at the absolute mark of thirty-five inches, the biggest you can keep for the bottom half of the slot limit. Paddlefish between thirty-five and forty-five inches have to be thrown back, and I’ve seen a very select few above forty-five caught, so I had decided I had my keeper in just a matter of a couple minutes into the morning. I was almost disappointed to be done so quickly because half of the fun is catching and releasing a few slot fish, but then again I was also excited and lucky to have caught one that measured to be a keeper.

After tagging my fish and cleaning it, I stuck around just to watch other people fish, as well as help people bring theirs in. If someone had a fish coming in and no one with them to grab onto it, I was running for the water’s edge to grab the tail and pull them up the shore. There were paddlefish hauled in much bigger than my own, but almost all of them were thrown back due to the slot size. I even helped haul in a fifty-pounder that measured just shy of forty-two inches. I felt bad for the guy who had to let that one go, but at least it was a great catch.

While I spent that extra four hours helping people bring in fish, I witnessed about fifteen more people keep paddlefish under thirty-five inches, and only one keeper above forty-five inches. It made me realize how lucky how I got on my first catch of the day, but it was time for me to get packed up, and I headed home. I can’t wait for my next chance at paddlefish though, because I’m definitely going for the one over forty-five.

Travis is blogging for The Outdoor Campus as part of a 20-hour internship in public relations. 

Backyard Cleanup Leads to Shed Antlers

Backyard Cleanup Leads to Shed Antlers

antler find - TH 2015By Travis Huber, Augustana University, Class of ’18. 

Two weekends ago my two brothers and I made a short trip to our hunting cabin to clean up the place and scout for some deer. Our “cabin” really just happens to be a small mobile home in a farmyard on a quarter of land, but it’s our perfect getaway to go out hunting, fish for creek chubs, and scout for animals in the valley on our land.

My project of the trip was to pick up and pile up all of the fallen branches in the backyard, which is about half the size of a football field and scattered with trees. I had been cutting branches and piling them up for a couple hours when I went back for the last few branches. I went to reach for what I thought was the end of a branch in a pile of leaves I had just been picking branches from, and I realized it happened to be a shed deer antler.1151:103115:36F:2817:CAMERA1 :5

I was hoping to search for sheds later that day, but didn’t quite expect to find one right in the backyard so I was certainly excited.  The antler is pretty weathered and beaten up, but if the points were more developed this antler would potentially be a seven pointer. Since one spot is just a little nub and two points are broken under once inch long, it can only be counted as a four point antler.

Regardless of condition, it was still an exciting find and I was happy to know there are deer hanging out right in our backyard as well as the rest of the land.

To add to the find, the following weekend my oldest brother went back to the cabin to go pheasant hunting in the tree belt behind the backyard and found another shed antler. It was laying in the middle of a path amongst a few leaves.   His antler would have been a four or five pointer but was much more weathered than mine.

Deer shed their antlers every year after the rut, the mating season, due to a reduction in testosterone levels which makes the antlers weak and fall off. Antlers then grow back over summer, typically even bigger and maybe with even more points. Next time we go to the cabin to scout, I’ll keep my eyes out for a seven by seven antler rack, because that just may potentially be the deer who left me his antler in our backyard.

Travis is blogging for The Outdoor Campus as part of a 20-hour internship in public relations. 

Rachel Got an Elk!

Rachel Got an Elk!
Rachel with her first elk!
Rachel with her first elk!

By Rachel Chamblin, Outdoor Campus volunteer coordinator

My husband, Cody, and I departed on Monday, September 28, in search of the elusive Black Hills elk. We stayed in Rapid City for the night and then headed out to our campground, Redbank Spring is located in the Black Hills National Forest, about 20 miles east of the Wyoming border. We scouted for elk for the next 2 days with very little sightings until the night before opener. We had walked about a mile and a half up a ridgeline and were trying to plan out where we would go for opening day when we heard a bugle. I have never heard an elk bugle before so it was pretty awesome to say the least. We determined there were probably 2-3 bull elk bugling at each other that night. So we decided to sneak out and head back to the same spot the next morning.

relk2On opening day, Oct. 1, we left camp and walked up the ridge line with our trusty head lamps helping guide the way. We heard lots of bugling and continued to slowly walk up the ridge line. A few hours into the morning Cody suggested we keep walking when he immediately kneeled to the ground. There was a huge bull elk walking right toward us! Immediately my nerves kicked in and my entire body was shaking. I couldn’t get a good shot at the elk and miscalculated and unfortunately missed the big one. He took off running and to rub it in stopped to look back at us before returning to the heard that was now walking away. It was extremely upsetting and I was ready to throw in the towel on my hunt. Cody wasn’t too impressed with my skills either!

So we decided to take a break and head into Hill City to fuel up and calm down. We headed back out to our spot after noon and ate a quick lunch and took a short nap. Around 3 pm we heard some noise and 2 bulls and 4 cows came running our way. This time I was prepared and calm (well calmer at least!) and took my time waiting for a good shot and harvested my first elk! This one was smaller then the one I missed in the morning but still a trophy in my book. The only   problem was we were 3 miles from the truck! Luckily we have a really neat app on our phone called My Tracks that uses GPS and showed us an ATV trail that was much closer to us. We had friends staying with us at the campground and they were able to bring an ATV to help us get the elk out.

A lot of great people helped make this hunt awesome and memorable! I was told once I go elk hunting I will be addicted, I can tell you it is true! Only now I will have to wait a long time to draw another Black Hills rifle elk tag.